One of the struggles for parents of children with special needs
can be creating a healthy and active social life outside of school.
Recognizing this challenge and offering solutions is the Friendship
Circle of Illinois, a local nonprofit that connects Jewish teenage
volunteers and children with special needs for weekly visits,
special outings and group activities. "It has proven to be very
helpful in creating and maintaining friendships," says Rabbi Zelik
Moscowitz, director of the program, which has been around in the
Chicago area for the past four years.
Friendship Circle of Illinois
The Friendship Circle works to address the needs of local
children with special needs that range from fragile X syndrome to
autism to physical disabilities, Moscowitz says. Last year, for
example, the organizers noticed that typical children are often
encouraged by their friends to join after-school activities, clubs
and sports teams. But this can be difficult for children with
special needs when the services aren't properly equipped for them.
To address this need, the Friendship Circle launched several
short-term clubs that are specifically targeted toward these
children, like the cooking club and martial arts club. A crafting
club, the third part in this series, will begin in
With more than 100 local teens volunteering and 60 families
participating, everyone has something to gain from the program,
"Teens are thinking about others. They take it very seriously
when they're put to the challenge to help someone else," he says.
"They're doing it not because of any rewards that they receive, but
out of the goodness of their hearts and to make the world a better
place." For more information on the Friendship Circle of Illinois,
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